For those of you who know me, you understand my obsession with efficiency. I’m always trying to find ways to make myself, and others, more efficient. Which is why I decided to write this blog detailing how I stay efficient when I travel, because as a consultant, a big part of my job is travel, which means I’m in an airplane…a lot. Prior to this hectic lifestyle, I looked at flights as a means to take me from point A to point B with some rest and relaxation in between. But that was before I started traveling more heavily, and needed to make sure every minute counted.

Now that I fly on a weekly basis, I’ve started treating the airplane as my mobile office. For the most part, I fly during two times of the day: mornings and evenings. And while others are partaking in their own R&R during the flight, I’m working to prepare for the day. Which I do by breaking the flight into three distinct parts, and planning around the restrictions of each of those parts in order to maximize my efficiency.

 

Pre-Flight:

Before you do anything, do what you can to make sure you have a good seat. Are you more productive and efficient sitting in the aisle, window, or middle seat? You decide. For the duration of the flight, your seat will be your sky office, so make sure you’ve selected a good one. If you can’t choose your seat when booking your flight, you can always try to sweet talk the gate attendant. But remember, you’re probably the millionth person that’s asked them to change seats that day, so be kind, understanding, and maybe buy them a coffee regardless of how it works out.

Prior to my flight, I create an agenda, or a work plan, in which I lay out what I hope to accomplish in-flight. The key here is setting reasonable expectations. Understand how much progress you can realistically make in an in-flight environment. I try to tackle the more challenging items first and easier items last. This is generally a good rule of thumb anyway, as your mind and body tend to fatigue as the day goes on, but it’s even more critical in a tight, in-flight environment. Because unless you’re in business or first class, you’re going to tire a whole lot quicker than usual when you’re hunched over your computer in those cramped little clown car seats.

Also prior to my flight, I plan on not having Wi-Fi because on some older planes it isn’t available and even on planes where it is available it can be frustratingly spotty. So, I plan ahead and make sure everything I need is synced prior to getting on my flight. If I’m in a pinch and need to download something last minute after I board the plane, I can always use my phone as a hotspot, tether my device to it, and quickly download anything I need before the plane starts to taxi. I also make sure all my equipment is fully charged before heading to the airport just in case there are no available outlets while I’m waiting to board or while I’m on the plane itself.

Last but not least, as you finish going through security, make sure you pick up a caffeinated drink/refreshment and some snacks for the plane. Being efficient is draining work, so make sure you get your carbs, your proteins, and your caffeine ready to go. The last thing you want to do is make an extensive work plan, take a seat on the plane, and then be too tired to actually get anything done. Stay caffeinated my friends!

 

In-Flight:

Board as early as you can. While generally the only reason to get on the plane early is to make sure you get an overhead space for your carry on, if you’re trying to be efficient, the sooner you can sit down and get organized the better, especially if you have some last-minute emails, phone calls, or downloading to do. Once the doors close and the electronics have to be put away, you can do one of two things: sit back, close your eyes, and go through your work plan in your head, or pull out some good old fashioned pen and paper and start sketching some things out. Do note though that on most flights now you can actually use unconnected, handheld electronic devices during takeoff. So, if you can do some work on your phone during this time that you don’t need to have transfer to your computer until you land, go for it.

Once I’m 10,000 feet in the air, the first step for me consists of putting my headphones on and tuning out the rest of the passengers. Now I’m ready to take my computer out and begin working. Again folks, this is all about preference, so you can either use the drop-down tray in front of you, or simply use your lap, it’s whatever works best for you. Just be aware of the possibility of your already minuscule workspace drastically shrinking when the person in front you suddenly decides to recline a few inches. Depending on the kind of computer you have, using your lap may be your only option.

You’ve setup a plan pre-flight, now start attacking it. Try to give each task a time limit so as to prevent your mind from wandering, but remember, whether your flight lasts 45 minutes or 14 hours, your mind will eventually need breaks. So, plan on it. After each accomplished task, take a quick break to enjoy a snack or beverage, take a peek out the window, or jam on that new song you just downloaded. Once you add this to your routine, you’ll quickly notice a pattern and a rhythm develop, which will help to keep you focused.

Once you’ve heard the flight attendant ask you to fasten your seat belt, stow all carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you, and turn off all electronic devices, don’t feel as if you need to rush to finish working, simply save your work and continue at another time. Now you can take a deep breath and relax.

 

Post-Flight:

 

After you’ve deplaned and called/texted your significant other letting them know that the eagle has landed safe and sound, there are a couple activities that should take place. First and foremost, give yourself some recognition for doing work and being productive while you could have easily relaxed and taken a nap. You may have just landed, but you’ve already gotten a jump start on your day at the ground office.

Second, if there was anything that needed to be emailed, uploaded, or synced via Wi-Fi and you weren’t able to do it during the flight, now is the time to do so. As soon as you get off the plane, take advantage of the free Wi-Fi, if available, and use this time to make any updates, while everything is still fresh in your mind.

Now instead of just starting your day, you can continue your day with momentum and efficiency backing you up and finish the day strong just like you began it!